The Character Traits and Skills of the Successful CEO — Closing

Big Red Car here.  Hey, it’s damn chilly here in the ATX — 41F and that may be the high today.  Brrrrrr, ya’ll!

Don’t fret, Mothah Nature is coming with her sunshine by midweek and it’ll be back in the high 60’s.

So The Boss went to a lovely party last night for an old pal of his who was celebrating his 70th birthday.  Guy looks 45 and acts 25.  Damn good businessman.

They were in business together for over 12 years a few years ago — big ride to the pay window — and one of the things The Boss learned from him was to be a closer.  A CLOSER!

What is a closer?

There are a lot of folks in business who can get a fire started and that is an enviable and vital skill for an entrepreneurial CEO and founder.  Make no mistake about that, Old Sport.  You gotta be a fire starter.

But you also have to be a closer.  So, Big Red Car, WTF does that really mean?

A closer is a person who when the chips are down and the deal, the Vision, the transaction wanders into that area in which it can blow up and falter gets the deal across the finish line.  Often simply by force of personality and the unwillingness to take NO for an answer.

The Boss is a closer extraordinaire and folks who have worked with him all have their stories of when he got something done that others might not have been to get done.

What does it take to be a closer?

You have to be organized and approach the closing with more than a bit of organization.  We spoke a bit about that notion here — The Character Traits and Skills of the Successful CEO — Organization.  Take a quick review of the subject if you are so inclined.  If not, keep reading, friend.

1.  You have to be dedicated to the notion that the deal IS going to close and you have to imbue your team with that confidence.  You are the energy source.  Make it so.  Nobody wants to follow a wishy washy leader who cannot focus on getting stuff done.  Getting deals closed.

2.  You have to know the status of the deal at all times and know where the rub points are emerging.  Anticipate the problems well before they arrive.  Certain deals have perfectly predictable problems.

Ever gotten a legal opinion on time or easily?  Legal opinions are always negotiated by the lawyers down to the last instant.  They are always a pain in the ass.

Get started early and get exemplars of the legal opinions they have rendered in prior deals.  Remember you are likely dealing with the firm’s legal opinion expert or committee and not your attorney who has been working the deal directly with you.

3.  You have to keep a closing checklist as to what things must be accomplished before the deal CAN close.  As each item is dealt with make damn sure the other side agrees as to the status.

4.  You have to check, double check and re-check your list constantly.

5.  You have to stay in constant communication with your team and the folks on the other side well before the closing date.  Make damn sure that the other side sees the tasks to be completed — the closing checklist — the same as you do.

6.  Get all the final documents in the same place and make sure everyone has access to them at all times.  In today’s digital age, there is no excuse for not doing this digitally.

7.  You may have to be physically at the closing when it goes down.  These days it is a temptation to simply sign and escrow everything but that often does not cut it.

8.  You have to be prepared to pivot on a dime, make last minute changes and small compromises.  Keep your eye on the big picture.

9.  In propelling things toward the close, do not be afraid to carve out certain problems and to agree via a side letter to deal with them in the future.  Limit your downside risk and be careful but get the deal closed.

Most of what is listed above is simple and obvious but it is often overlooked in the heat and fog of the deal.

When the deal is closed give everyone involved a nice momento — engraved Mont Blanc or Pelikan pen?  Create a trophy that memorializes success.  Build on that success.  Be a closer.

Good CEOs will be good closers.  It is easy to do if you keep focused.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway?  I’m just a Big Red Car.